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Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at the Conference on Progressive Governance for the 21st Century in Berlin, Germany

June 03, 2000

President Clinton. Thank you very much. First of all, I would like to, I think, speak for all of us in thanking Chancellor Schroeder for this remarkable meeting and the communique which is coming out of our meeting. It's, I think, a fair statement of the way we view the 21st century world and what our responsibilities and opportunities are in it.

There is a consensus among us that we face, in the globalized information society, great opportunities and great challenges; that we want economic growth and social justice; that the countries around this table, because of their size differences, their continental differences, their developmental differences, face particular challenges; but that there are things we can do to help each other and to help our own people.

We talked specifically about economic empowerment, about education, about closing the digital divide, about the importance of reducing income inequality as a result of the globalization. We talked about the importance of a global initiative to reduce disease and poverty. We talked about climate change. And we talked a good deal about the importance of reaffirming our common humanity in the midst of the racial and ethnic and religious tensions that still dominate too much of the world's conflicts and are present, to some degree, in every one of our countries.

We did agree, as the Chancellor said, to set up a network of our people to work together to identify specific challenges and come up with specific responses to them, so that we can now move from the more theoretical level of our discussions to concrete suggestions that will be helpful and could actually improve the lives of the people we represent.

And finally, let me say we agreed that those of us who are members will emphasize a lot of these concerns at the coming G-8 meeting in Okinawa, where we expect to see a real emphasis on, in particular, on three things we talked about today: on spreading educational opportunities in the developing world; on closing the digital divide; and on a major effort by the developed countries to increase our response to disease, particularly to HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria.

So this was a very good meeting. And Chancellor, again I thank you, and I, for one, learned a lot, and I think it was very much worth the effort that you made to put it on.

[At this point, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany began the question-and-answer session. A participant asked if and when another meeting was scheduled and if the group would stay together regardless of election results. The Chancellor stated that the group was indissoluble and had scheduled another meeting in July.]

European Union

Q. Mr. President, yesterday the Chancellor called you a true European. As a true European, can you tell us where you think Europe should be moving? Should Europe be moving to become a United States of Europe; should it becoming a kind of federal state? Is that what it should be doing, or should it be a rather looser confederation of nation-states? [Laughter]

President Clinton. Well, I'm also a true democrat, which means I believe people should make their own decisions—[laughter]—about their lives.

Let me say, as I said yesterday in Aachen, I have strongly supported the cause of European union. I think that what has been done so far is a plus. I think that more members will be added to the Union, and I think that is a good thing. You already have a common currency and a forum for resolving common concerns.

Whether the Union will grow tighter, as well as larger, I can't say. That's a decision you have to make. And my guess is that now that you have a framework that's plainly working economically and politically, that those decisions will be made over a longer period of time and that for the next few years you'll be at least as concerned about how many other countries should be let in. But it's entirely a decision for Europe to make. The United States will support you whatever you do as long as we continue to share values and work together and deal with the kind of questions we're discussing today.

Latin America

Q. To President Clinton, how do you view the situation in Latin America? And I'd like to know how you can see the principles you're advocating here coming about in Latin American countries with the difficulties facing democracy there at the moment.

Thank you.

President Clinton. Well, first, I think that all the people here who are not from Latin America should know that every country but one is a democracy; that there has been an enormous amount of economic and political reform in Latin America in the last decade; but that because of the rise of narcotraffickers and terrorist activities in Colombia and in other countries, democracy is under great strain in Latin America.

And my belief is that we should do everything we can to support the elected governments and democratic tendencies. We should make sure that we do whatever we can to see that the economies work for ordinary citizens, that there is a human face on Latin America's part of the global economy, and that we try to strengthen those governments that are under particular stress, which is why I've done what I could to persuade our Congress to help Colombia and the other countries in the Andean regions to deal with the combined impacts of the narcotraffickers and the civil wars in the region.

Perhaps the Latin American Presidents here might have a better insight. But I think the fact that we have the Presidents of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile here, I think, has been a big addition to the quality of our discussions because of the particular challenges facing Latin America at this time.

[President Fernando Cardoso of Brazil and President Fernando de la Rua of Argentina commented on democracy in Latin America.]

Progressive Governance

Q. Mr. President, you said that globalization should be given a new human face. What was striking was that the term "Third Way" wasn't used at this conference; progressive governance was the motto of this conference. Is this a turning point for future meetings of the center-left?

President Clinton. I hope not, because I believe that, to me, it does reflect the Third Way. But, you know, that term, "the Third Way," is fairly closely identified with our administration and with what Prime Minister Blair has done in Great Britain. And I think this idea of progressive governance is perhaps less of a political slogan and more of a description of what it is we're all trying to do.

But essentially, I think what unites us is, we believe in the positive possibilities of a globalized information economy. And we know we have to have responsible economic policies to make the private markets work, but we don't believe that's enough. We don't believe you can have social justice and deal with all these other challenges we face unless you have effective, progressive governance that makes the most of the new economy and deals with its rough edges and difficulties as well. I think that's so—I think, in that sense, progressive governance describes what we're trying to do. We don't believe in just laissez-faire economics, but we don't believe that government alone can solve these problems or ignore the importance of economic performance. So what we want is progressive governance to deal with the opportunities and challenges that are out there.

I think it is a fair description of what we're about, and it is perhaps more inclusive of all the countries here represented than the Third Way. I like the Third Way because it's sort of easy to remember. [Laughter] But I think that far more important than the labels are the substance, and I think that's what has really bound us together here today, is the substance of what we're about.

[Chancellor Schroeder commented that the absence of Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom was due to the birth of his child rather than to differences of substance.]

President Clinton. Progressive governance and the Third Way are pro-family. [Laughter]

Chancellor Schroeder. One last question, please.


Q. Mr. Clinton, I'd like to ask you, what is your view of how the Internet should be used as a tool for strengthening democracy and for the education of the developing countries and strengthening democracy in countries like China or other countries where this is a problem, instead of being used as a tool to spread destructive information? How should you enforce that tool? And what is the role for countries that are far ahead in this area, like Sweden and the United States, for example?

President Clinton. Well, first, I think that we should recognize what an enormous potential the Internet has for bridging economic, educational, and social divides, not only in the developing world but in the poorest areas of developed countries, because it collapses time and space and allows access to information that was previously unthinkable for people in difficult situations.

Prime Minister Chretien talked about how he had all the Eskimo villages in northern Canada connected to the Internet. That has enormous health implications, enormous educational implications, and my guess is, economic implications.

So to specifically answer your question, I'll give you just three examples of things I think we ought to be emphasizing. I believe we ought to try to have Internet connections with printers in all the poorest villages where we're trying to get children into schools and give them modern education, because—for example, the entire Encyclopedia Britannica is now on the Internet. And if you have a printer and a computer in a poor village, you don't have to be able to afford textbooks anymore, and it's a far more efficient way for government to spread universal information. So that's one example that's an education example.

For an economic example, I think that all over the world we see economic empowerment initiatives. In Latin America, for example, there has been a lot of work to get native crafts— and also in African villages—out. I think there ought to be a systematic effort to use E-commerce to market these things all over the world and increase the incomes of poor people in villages dramatically by the use of E-commerce.

The third thing, a political usage. In India, where I just visited, in several of the villages in several of the States in India, they're now providing government services over the Internet. In some places, they're more advanced than we are in the United States. I was in Hyderabad, where you can get 18 government services over the Internet, including a driver's license, so no one ever waits in line for it anymore. If anyone did that in America, they could be elected for life. [Laughter]

So I think that—but far more important is, I saw a poor woman in a village who just had a baby go into the only public building in this village, to the village computer, where there was someone there who helped her operate it. And she called up the health department and got instructions, with very good software, very good visuals, about how she should care for this baby for the first 6 months. And I reviewed it— it's just as good as anything she could get in the wealthiest community in America from the finest obstetrician—so that we're going to keep more babies alive because of the Internet.

So those are three examples of things that I think we should be focused on. And those of us in the wealthier countries should be providing the money and the technical support for countries to do more of this, because it will move more people more quickly out of poverty, I think, than anything that's ever been out there, if we do it right.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:10 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the Chancellery. In his remarks, he referred to President Ricardo Lagos of Chile; and Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Chancellor Schroeder, President Cardoso, and President de la Rua.

William J. Clinton, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at the Conference on Progressive Governance for the 21st Century in Berlin, Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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